Learning Styles
    ďA tutorís learning style profoundly influences his or her tutoring style, and if tutor and tutee learning styles clash, frustration and trouble can ensue.  Identifying and describing both learning styles then becomes one pivotal element in crafting a successful tutor-tutee relationship.Ē   -- John Wolfe

The way a person prefers to learn is called his/her learning style.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad learning style.  It has nothing to do with intelligence or skills.  It has everything to do with the way a person's brain works to learn and store information efficiently.  Since everyone learns differently, understanding learning styles can help you become a better tutor.

By examining learning styles, you will become aware of how each person's brain learns best.  This awareness gives you and your tutees the chance to study effectively.  Itís important to be aware of information about learning styles as well as tips on how to tutor students with learning styles different from yours.

The study of learning styles is quite complex. While there is a general agreement that we all learn in a unique way, there are many different theories as to defining and categorizing the various ways that people think and learn. For the purposes of this lesson, and diagnosing your approach to learning, we will focus on the more common or general theories. The most basic inventories group people into three categories: Auditory (learn by hearing), Tactile (learn by doing), and Visual (learn by seeing or writing).

In order for tutors to know how to work with tutees of diverse learning styles, you will first need to be aware of your own learning strengths.  Get to know more about your particular learning preferences by taking this learning style questionnaire.  When you are done with the survey, click the Submit Query button to reveal your style. Then click HERE to see a summary of the different styles.

Everyone has a combination of ways in which s/he learns.  But most people have a predominant style. You should use your self-assessment scores to start thinking about how you most effectively study and learn.

You may also want to try to broaden your learning stylesóit never hurts to try to improve oneís auditory comprehension if one is a primary visual learner. Taking a multi-sensory approach will both help overall comprehension and ability to retain information through many avenues for learning.  Refer to the charts below to get a better understanding of the 3 sensory learning styles.

 Clues to this Style
 Suggestions for studying
  • Needs to be able to see the information.
  • Artistic talent in the visual arts.
  • Difficulties following spoken directions.
  • Misunderstanding or misinterpretation of spoken material.
  • Overreaction to sounds.
  • Take lecture notes.
  • Underline, highlight, or circle printed material.
  • Borrow othersí notes, compare to own.
  • Draw pictures in notes to illustrate concepts.
  • Use a variety of colorsóin pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, paper, etc. for different categories or concepts.
  • Write it out!
  • Use outlines, pictures, graphs, charts, and diagrams.
  • Draw out ideas.
  • Work with many colors.
  • Make sure you can take any visual materials away with you--from class, tutoring and study group sessions, etc., so you can go back and look at them.


 Clues to this Style
 Suggestions for studying
  • Preference of material which can be listened to.
  • Difficulties following written directions.
  • Spoken expression is much more effective than written.
  • Difficulties reading non-verbals.
  • Closing eyes to better understand spoken material (but NOT to sleep!).
  • Study in groups and talk things out.
  • Work out problems aloud.
  • Record lectures, tutoring and study group sessions, etc. (makes a permanent verbal record of material).
  • Read texts out loud (into recorder).
  • Listen to lecture/text tapes while driving, walking, working out, etc.
  • Dictate papers, to be typed later.
  • Read questions aloud.
  • Use word association.


Clues to this Style

Suggestions for studying

  • Preference for hands-on learning.
  • Can assemble parts without reading directions.
  • Need to be able to touch or manipulate what is being learned.
  • Trace letters of words with finger (to memorize spelling, for example).
  • Use finger as a guide while reading material.
  • Take, and type out or rewrite class notes.
  • Get hands onóin science or computer labs, for exampleódonít just watch someone else do it.
  • Use modelsóof the human brain, DNA, etc.
  • Write out everything.
  • Draw charts or diagrams of relationships.

Itís important to be aware of your own learning strengths, but itís just as important for a tutor to be aware of other learning styles. Tutors should look for clues to how their students think and learn.  You can conduct an informal  assessment without making it obvious to the tutee. You will notice characteristics of their learning styles in the way they take notes, talk about their teachers, react to their assignments, and respond to your questions.  You can ask them some of the same questions you answered in your self assessment.

Once you have an idea about your tuteeís learning style, you should apply certain techniques that compliment his/her thinking. 

Look over these tutoring tips:

Tutoring Tips based on Learning Style

Auditory Learners

Encourage them to explain the material to you, as if they were the tutor.

Ask them to read explanations out loud.

Ask the student to make up a song using the subject material.  The crazier the better.

Tell the students they can review audio tapes while they drive.

Advise them that when they are learning new information, state the problem out loud.  Reason through solutions out loud.

Ask the student to say words in syllables.

Refer them to our audio cassettes.

Encourage them to make up and repeat rhymes to remember facts, dates, names, etc.

Make sure they go over all important facts aloud.

Advise the student to join or create a study group, or to get a study partner.

To learn a sequence of steps, write them out in sentence form, then read them out loud.

Ask the student to use mnemonics and word links.

Involve the student in a discussion of the material.

Refer them to the LAC audio/videotapes.


Tactile Learners

Encourage them to pick up the book as they are reading or talking.

Have them write while they are reading or talking.

Encourage them to walk around the LAC for appropriate books and other resources.

Advise them to sit near the front of their classroom and to take notes. This will keep the student focused.

Advise them to spend extra time in any labs offered.

Encourage them to use the computer to reinforce learning using their sense of touch.

Have them write lists repeatedly.

Advise them to exaggerate lip movements in front of a mirror.

Ask them to stand while they explain something to you.

Ask them to use rhythm (beats) to memorize or explain something.

As the student is explaining something, have the student point to the subject matter in the book, on the board, etc., while reading it out loud.

Ask them to use gestures when giving explanations.

Advise them to make models that demonstrate the key concept. (The purpose here is the act of making the model.)

Advise students to use hands-on experience when possible.

Make flashcards for each step in the procedure.  Put the cards in order until the sequence becomes automatic.

Use audio tapes from classes.  They can play them while they walk or exercise.

Ask them to stretch and move in the chairs .


Visual Learners

Use a blackboard or notepaper for both of you to write questions and answers.

Encourage the use of color-coded highlighting.

Use graph paper to help them create charts and diagrams that demonstrate key points. (Only spatial visual learners use this.)

Have them use mnemonics, acronyms, visual chains, and mind maps.

Refer them to our books.

Advise them to use the computer to organize materials, to create graphs, tables, charts, and spreadsheets.

Ask the student to organize the material.

Use visual analogies.

Use photographs.

Use visual metaphors.

When you ask them to explain something, suggest they do so by writing the explanation down.

Ask them to make flashcards, then use them during the session/s. The act of writing (the cards) and viewing them doubles their comprehension.

Encourage them to visualize the scene, formula, words, charts, etc.

Refer them to the LAC computer programs.

Use illustrations.

Integrating these ideas into your tutoring will improve the learning relationship.  You will be modeling study behavior that the tutee can use in the classroom and when studying independently.

Research on learning styles can get rather complex and theoretical.  You are not expected to be an expert on the subject, but itís important that tutors are aware of the variation in thinking and learning.  Remember, itís important to keep the tutoring session fun and unintimidating.  Visit the website Humor and the Multiple Intelligences to get some ideas on how to use humor with different kinds of learners.

There are many other theories, formulas, and approaches to studying learning styles.  One of the foremost educational researchers on the subject is Howard Gardner.

His theory on Multiple Intelligences is more in depth than the Sensory Learning Styles that we looked at above.  Gardnerís continuing work on the way people think and learn is broadening educatorsí perspectives and including more people in the learning community.  -If you are interested in finding out more about your learning preferences, you should take The Multiple Intelligence Inventory.

Another common study of human thinking involves the left and right sides of the brain.  You might have heard references to a person being left-brained or right-brained.  We have to be careful not to oversimplify this and other theories.  -Itís also important to avoid using these theories as excuses or stereotypes that pigeonhole people instead of providing useful information.  Look at this site on Left or Right Brain?. Take the test "Are You Right Brained or Left Brained?" at the bottom of the page. This will provide you with further understanding of the way we think and learn.

Each student learns differently, at a different rate, using different learning styles. Everyone has a learning style. Our style of learning, if accommodated, can result in improved attitudes toward learning, as well as increased self-esteem and academic achievement. By identifying your learning style and becoming familiar with other styles, you will become a more effective and creative tutor.

Look at these sites to learn more about learning styles:

Learning Styles and How to Maximize Your Success in School

Learning Styles New Horizons for Learning